Second Gripen fighter order by Thailand a boost for SA aerospace company

24th November 2010 By: Keith Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Thailand’s signing of an order for six more Saab Gripen fighters is welcome good news for beleaguered South African aerospace company Denel Saab Aerostructures (DSA), which manufactures major Gripen structures.

“We are very excited whenever Gripens sell into the market, and especially now, with tough times in the market, this is very good news,” DSA Chief Operating Officer Theo Kleynhans told Engineering News Online on Wednesday.

“DSA is the single-source supplier for the rear fuselage and the main landing gear unit fuselage section for the Gripen,” he explained.

“We’re also producing pylons for the previous Thai Gripen order, which are modified pylons. We do not yet know if there will be another pylon order. Thailand might have already ordered enough – customers typically buy pylons separately.”

In Stockholm on Tuesday, Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) commander Air Chief Marshall Itthaporn Subhawong signed a contract for six Gripen C fighters and one Saab 340 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. Saab has stated that the contract is worth $317-million and also includes the supply of Saab RBS 15F sea-skimming anti-ship missiles.

This contract is a follow-up to a 2008 deal under which the RTAF acquired four Gripen Cs (which are single-seaters), two dual-seat Gripen Ds, a Saab 340 AEW&C aircraft and a Saab 340 training aircraft. The first Thai Gripen made its maiden flight in September last year.

“We have a business model with Saab, under which we produce eight to ten ship sets a year,” stated Kleyhans. A ship set is a rear fuselage section and a main landing gear unit fuselage section. With the new contract, the production rate will remain the same, but production will now run for a longer period.

“We have delivered more than 100 Gripen ship sets so far. This is repeat business, and good business, for DSA.”

Saab holds 20% of DSA, the rest of the company being in the hands of South Africa’s State-owned defence industrial group, Denel.